Intercity Bus Travel / Mexico

The dreaded inter-city bus, which millions of Americans would equate Greyhound, the cute dog on the side of MCI buses that dot interstates, is making a rise with travelers, mostly with millennials. Greyhound isn’t the only bus service on the roads anymore – Megabus, a subsidary of Coach USA, BoltBus (a Greyhound low-cost venture on the Northeast and Northwest coast), Peter Pan (almost the same as BoltBus), and many other regional lines are now filled to the brim, traveling along interstates with fare prices for as low as $1.

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The exciting part about the $1 bus ride is relatively simple – if you’re traveling 250 miles for $1, boundaries are endless. In July, I took a trip to Monterrey, Mexico. The promotional fare was $1 from San Antonio to Monterrey. Since I live in Houston, I took Megabus to San Antonio, and then continued my journey. $1. I crossed an international boundary, and was on a bus for over 4 hours and 45 minutes traveling at speeds of 70 mph.

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TRAVELING TO MEXICO

Unless you fly into sunny San Diego International Airport, or pay an extraordinary amount to land at a border town airport, traveling to a large American city near the border is your best bet if you’re traveling into Mexico from wherever you are in the country. Obviously, if you’re going to a Mexican tourist city, you’d just travel directly to the city. If you’re trying to visit the border metropolises however (Brownsville – Matamoros; McAllen – Reynosa; Laredo – Nuevo Laredo; El Paso – Juarez; Nogales – Nogales) landing as far away as Houston or San Antonio (for Matamoros, Reynosa, or Nuevo Laredo).

The reasons for this make complete sense – all the border airports are virtually tiny. Laredo’s airport handles the largest airplanes, and those aren’t any larger than a 757. While still a massive aircraft, it’s only a regional service on Allegiant to Las Vegas. Therefore, the airlines pay a ton of money for the little amount of slots at the airport. If you’re already flying from a small, similar airport, the fare directly to these airports will be relatively the same. But, in crazy circumstances, a one way ticket from Houston – Brownsville by plane can be up to $150, over 10 times the ticket price if booked 2 weeks in advance. The bus ticket could reach $25 one-way if booked on a weekend. Still, the math works. $25 for 370 miles. ┬áThat’s about 7 cents a mile. You can’t beat that.

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Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Matamoros have huge bus stations which lead to the interior of Mexico. It is wise to get a visa if you’re going to be traveling by bus. It costs about $25 and is available at the border crossing. If you’re traveling by bus physically over the border (not walking over the border and then connecting in Mexico) you will be required to pay for this visa. It says on the visa you must give it back to the Mexican government once you leave Mexico, but since I’ve entered Mexico in 2006, not one Mexican official has ever asked me to give up anything or to tell them where I’m going. You just pay the toll, and you’re out.

Inside a Mexican ETN bus
Inside a Mexican ETN bus

Several Mexican destinations include San Luis Potosi, Monterrey, Tampico, Cuidad Victoria, Torreon, etc. Once you go further than San Luis Potosi, you should look confer with traveluso! or look into Mexican low cost airlines. They’re very punctual and almost the same as Spirit in the United States except they’re not there to completely try and screw you over. We’ll talk more about Spirit soon, because Spirit is a huge part of the intercity bus – miles for cent travel ideas we have on traveluso!

STATESIDE BUS TRAVEL

The most important part of the trip is to get to your destination for the least amount of money as possible for as comfortable as possible. Intercity bus travel is key in states that don’t have adequate Amtrak service. Also, buses can detour easier than trains. Only the worst squalls can cause bus service to deteriorate.

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A popular route, and a favorite of mine, Houston – New Orleans by Megabus, and equally ran by Greyhound four blocks south but not in cool double decker buses – is 6 hours and 30 minutes, with no traffic in sight. In Baton Rouge, or before – (they’ve recently added Baton Rouge to be a stop in the route.) When I was coming back to Houston from New Orleans, we stopped at a gas station for the bus to refuel, and for us to stretch, smoke cigarettes, and get snacks or warm meals.)

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Greyhound and Megabus also mimic the Dallas route very close together, along with the San Antonio route. Greyhound usually has a 15 minute layover in Buffalo, Texas – about halfway between Houston and Dallas. In between Houston and San Antonio, Greyhound sometimes has a pit stop in Schulenberg. With new express routes however, Megabus and shorter intercity trips on Greyhound are non-stop. They want to get you to your destination as quickly as possible.

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USING THE BUS TO CONNECT FROM SHORT-HAUL FLIGHTS

With Spirit and Frontier Airlines driving the market price down for short haul flights around the United States, it only makes sense to think of driving to a city within 3 hours of your current location to save hundreds of dollars if you can ride the economy buses to say, Las Vegas.

In 2009, the first time I attempted a bus connection for a short haul flight was a fare I found from San Antonio to Boston. My final destination was New York, however. After skipping up to Detroit and finally landing in Boston, I rode one of the newest Greyhound buses into Manhattan, 4 hours, with great legroom, electrical outlets, and wifi.

When I left that year, I’m pretty sure I departed from Philadelphia International and landed in Houston, dejected. I was planning on staying long term in New York, but obviously, that didn’t work, and here I am telling you how to get places not exactly quicker, but notoriously quicker.

 

 

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